A 5 p.m. film, an 8 p.m. dinner. It’s the classic evening out. But how quickly it goes flat (another evening of uncomfortable Esquire seating and pizza, anyone?). This month, though, the Starz Denver Film Festival (denverfilm.org) offers a chance to refresh the romantic ritual. We asked the film festival’s artistic director, Brit Withey, to pick his favorite flicks. Then, we scoured eateries near downtown with which to pair them. Get these five dates on your calendar today.
DATE #1 Echotone struck a chord with Withey. He couldn’t get enough of the indie music or artistic cinematography that hold together this film about the Austin, Texas, music scene. The songs are new and unknown, and the images of the city remind Withey of Denver. There’s only one appropriate ending for this film: A corn dog and sweet potato fries at Sputnik (3 S. Broadway, sputnikdenver.com) and a stop at neighboring Hi-Dive for live tunes.
DATE #2 Withey applauds A Somewhat Gentle Man, a dark, Swedish comedy, for its crafted acting. With understated humor, Stellan Skarsgård ("Good Will Hunting") brings to life an ex-prisoner who returns to society, only to find himself in the midst of a gangster boss, a seductive landlady, and the new challenges of being a grandparent. The flick is just right for Park & Co.’s (439 E. 17th Ave., parkandcodenver.com) gourmet burgers and house-made pretzel and cheddar fondue.
DATE #3 Withey selected the Argentine film Carancho because of its compelling story line: A doctor and a lawyer, who both make money off auto-accident victims, meet in the hospital and improbably fall in love. The film tells a dark tale of Argentina, and we recommend pairing it with a lighter taste of the country. Viejo Domingo (3555 W. 38th Ave., 303-433-5777) serves Argentine steaks, empanadas, and ricotta-sprinkled salads.
DATE #4 The meaty Czech drama Kawasaki’s Rose impressed Withey with its complex emotions. He even declared it his favorite of the 2010 Berlin International Film Festival. The story of a psychiatrist with dark secrets campaigning against the Communist regime is tinged with politics and tart humor. Chase it down with a beer at Euclid Hall (1317 14th St., euclidhall.com), where bold, European brews meet an equally brawny meal—brats, sausages, and schnitzels.
DATE #5 The fast-paced, youthful film Tehroun pushes the boundaries of Iranian film, which is why Withey loves it. We think that the story of an Iranian beggar who depends on a rented baby deserves a contemplative conversation. Reserve a quiet table at Luca D’Italia (711 Grant St., lucadenver.com), order a bottle of fruity Barbera, and linger over a platter of house-cured salumi and bowls of handcrafted pasta.